Elections, governmental maneuvering, and a fistful of polls released this weekend all showed the far-right on the rise in Europe. In Vienna, the Freedom Party (whom Charles Hawley profiled in these pages last month) won a third of the vote for Mayor, almost toppling 70 years of Social Democrat rule in that city. A Dutch poll showed that the PVV, Geert Wilders’ anti-immigration party, is at its highest popularity since 2004—higher than the current governing party or its junior coalition partner.
And then there’s the situation in Sweden, where the government is teetering on the brink of collapse. Last December, the four major, mainstream Swedish parties made a pact whose central premise was to keep the Sweden Democrats, the anti-immigration populist party that had been surging in polls, out of power no matter what. In order to do so, the center-right had to agree to vote for left-wing agendas in perpetuity. Not surprisingly, their members have finally revolted. The catch is that the Sweden Democrats have in the interval gained in strength, partly by playing the political victimhood card for being kept away from the halls of power, and partly because of the burgeoning migrant crisis. And thus here we are today: the SD really are a dodgy nationalist party with a supremacist and fascist past, and Sweden now has more immigrant minorities than ever. This is not likely to prove a pretty combination.
The problem this poses for Sweden is just a sharp example of a dilemma that European leaders have created for themselves all over the Continent. For years, the European elite have presented the immigration question as a binary and moral, rather political, matter: either you were on the side welcoming essentially unrestricted immigration, particularly through asylum claims, or you were a racist. In a move that should have shocked no one, when immigration levels grew, this led to the growth of the far-right: many concerned about the issue felt they had nowhere else to go.
As Andrew Stuttaford pointed out yesterday at NRO, there are some signs that centrist politicians—particularly in Germany, where Chancellor Merkel’s poll numbers have taken a big hit, and members of her coalition have noticed—are starting to get the message. But we probably shouldn’t hold our collective breath for a major break soon. The moral framework the left has set up for itself is hard to escape. And considering that hundreds of thousands are still pouring into the Continent, the far-right is likely to continue seeing gains.